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Don't be such a pill

Posted by R. Berg on November 19, 2003

In Reply to: Don't be such a pill posted by James Briggs on November 19, 2003

: : : Where did "Don't be such a pill," or the use of "pill" to describe something lame, come from?

: : My guess... it comes from the phrase "Take a chill pill." which means "relax" or "don't get excited".

: Could it be short for 'pillock', a colloquial British word for a dumb or stupid person - at least in the eyes of the speaker?

"Take a chill pill" must be too recent to be the origin. The Oxford English Dictionary gives "An objectionable person; a bore" as a slang sense of "pill," with the earliest example dated 1897. In a similar sense, "pill" means anything that people don't like to "swallow" or endure. These meanings come from the reluctance with which people swallow medicinal pills. In earlier times, I believe, pills were typically large and often bitter.